Sunday, August 13, 2017

To The Top And Back!

The previous entry, was just getting half way there. That wasn't the destination. That was the halfway point in our long walk. Things get even more interesting after that.

This wasn't the destination. This was the respite; This is the relief - the extraction from that tiresome endeavor. Beyond these planks is our ride that brings us back to the familiar. Leaving behind the tedious adventure -  and our footprints. But we bring back with us the dirt in our shoes from this, along with the pictures, the memories and the sense of accomplishment. Taal has been kind to us in this.
This is the second of the two parts. In case you missed the first one, it's in here. As what our guides would say to fellow hikers we come across along the way, "Keep it up! You're halfway there."

Picking up where we left off. We've come to a clearing on the trail - the trees no longer grew and the uphill got steeper. It didn't help that the sun was beating down on us. I'm probably the least resilient among us in the group when it comes to the heat of the sun. I resorted to taking breaks in whatever shade I can find, but by now it's no longer a viable tactic. The steeper incline made each step even more difficult, but giving up is not on the table.

"Not today." I pondered.

"This is what I signed up for..."

On rare occasions when I managed to step ahead, I try to take pictures when I can. It's not because they lagged behind. It's because they're enjoying the view. Selfies and all. Like I said, they make this look easy.

Looking On. Our sweeper, Jasper stays back watching everyone. Just how slow was I on this ascent? Slow enough to be able to take this picture. The terrain gets a bit rocky and hard. If you trip here, it's sure to bruise badly.

Enjoying The View. While the terrain is hard and the incline is steep, you can't fault the view for being sublime.

Needless to say, I had to push on. Even harder with all the strength I can muster. Step after step, it's heavy and tricky. The terrain was at least firm and slipping doesn't feel like it'll happen likely. But there's no place for rest here. There's not a single tree nearby to cover me, and though it doesn't show in the pictures, there's a thin wisp of smoke emanating from the ground - but that's the problem - it's the heat radiating from it as well. I needed to hustle harder.  If I don't get out of this part of the trail, the sun will roast me while the ground bakes me.

This lovely, firmer patch of the terrain is actually warmer than everywhere else in the trail.
Nothing in this hike could've prepared me for what awaited me just out of sight.

But First, Group Picture! Yes my fellow hikers love taking pictures. I do too- If I wasn't struggling too much to keep up in this hike. Nonetheless, while everyone's enjoying the scene, I got the time to hustle my posterior to go on a few steps ahead.

Towards the end, I met a nasty surprise - The incline got steeper yet again! By now, my body was sore and I could barely stand straight. I found some contour on the ground that  had shade and decided to sit and rest even if for a bit... Jasper, our sweeper was kind enough to humor me and stayed with me for a bit and supplied me with some water as well - turns out my water supply wasn't as adequate as I expected. How bad was it? Bad enough for me to forget to take pictures.

After what felt like a really long time for me, I mustered the strength to stand again. Each step felt heavier as the terrain got steeper. It didn't help that there was a random horse poop every now and then that I had to maneuver around. There were at least a couple more turns and steep uphill, until finally, I saw the faces of people - I have made it to the outskirts of the viewing deck area at last. Stores here and there, but my destination was the view of the crater.

Final Few Steps. Penny, my camera, actually beat me to the place. These are the final steps I had to take to make it to the place. I had jolly people around me along the way who cheered me up.

This journey I took knowing it will be an ordeal, chasing the shadow of what's now a distant memory - a fantasy that was once reality. I have now arrived where I wanted to be - the first destination among many. I did not find the shadow I chase, but I found something somewhat more rewarding. The plans and promises made, ones I intended to keep from my end regardless of how everything else went awry, this is the first of many journeys for the rest of my life will try. Now from where I stand looking at something I've never seen with my own eyes, I find myself in the company and kindness of amazing strangers I never met before.

Under the clouds forming with the air getting damp and droplets falling, I reached the peak, and the purpose of this journey. The skies shower me with some respite from the cruel sun. I look beyond and I saw this - the view that goes beyond, further and out of sight from the comfort zone. This was worth risking for. Safety and fear never helped me through the worst; This adventure was worth risking for. This was the first of many - there will be more.

Sophie and Tin enjoying some trail mix while we're waiting for the rain to pass. It was weird that the rain started falling only after I got to stand at the end and enjoy the view. It's probably as close to divine intervention as it gets.

Take A Selfie. These two have been jolly and kind to me- hanging back and cheering me up along the way. This trail was cake walk for them but nonetheless they did it at a chill pace and took pictures.

Take More Pictures! Max here is from Sweden. This kid flies back tomorrow, and picked taking a hike as his last day activity. What's amazing to me was how effortless this seemed for him. I didn't see him carrying anything when we went on the trail and coming back. He's tougher than he looks.

Apparently the weather in the crater area seemed erratic. For us at least. After the short rain, it went all sunny like no rain ever happened. If anything, at least all the horse poop on the trail got washed away somehow.

Deep Blue Lake. This lake looks so serene and peaceful. It's such a beautiful place that one would almost forget it's an active volcano. More pictures like this on my Flickr.

Enjoying The View. My fellow hikers leave their bags on the ground and on top of the concrete blocks while they hang out and enjoy the view. Jasper and Ram prepare the banner that we'll use for the group pictures.

Rain Clouds. I catch a glimpse of the rain clouds departing the island at the distance.  The clouds obscure the fancy establishments of Tagaytay at the distance.

The viewing deck here shows a good deal of this area. The curved horizon is due to the lens.

Setting Up. Now the banner is ready. I should join the group picture now.

It's Official. We made it here. I had an awesome time with everyone here.

Camera Bloopers. For some reason our photographer here may have inadvertently enabled the touch screen on Penny. With the camera hanging on his neck, it kept taking pictures while it was bumping on his chest.

Fumbling With Cameras. There are several of us with our own cameras. Jasper and Ram are kind enough to accommodate each one of us by taking our pictures with each of our own cameras. It gets tedious but they're on top of it. :)

With Everyone. Jasper and Ram has been patient with us in taking our pictures. They deserve to be in the picture too. Banner aside, this is all of us who made it here. Smile!

Jhaye Snapping At The Lake. Trivia: she was having a fever before she got here and the whole time she was sick. Also she traveled somewhere else the next day. She's one tough gal dedicated to traveling.

Tin found a good spot to take pictures that includes the lake. Her initial woe was that her lens wasn't wide enough to take in the whole lake. We can fix that....

And this is exactly what I came here for. This may just be one picture, but it took a lot to get this. This was a journey through places I never imagined I'd come across. And it was worth it.

The Way Back. I believed the way back will be easier since it's all downhill... I couldn't have been more wrong. If anything it was even trickier. Already fatigued from the way up, going back down was even more challenging. It involved a lot of balancing yourself so you don't fall over, it's actually more physically demanding than it sounded.

"Good morning! Not too far now. You're almost there..." says Jasper to fellow hikers we come across. The variety of  people you come across who go here is actually surprising. I even saw a guy riding a horse in office attire- I was so puzzled that I forgot to take a picture.

The Boat Back. It has been one heck of an adventure and ordeal. Going back to the boat I took this chance to take a picture of the greenery that lurk under the water on the shore. I saw them first getting off the boat earlier but I didn't get the chance to take pictures- too busy balancing myself to not fall into the water.

The Way Back.  Everyone was exhausted from today, we're a bit less excited in going back. Mostly due to fatigue.

When we got back to the resort, I took the opportunity to cool down by taking a shower and changing into fresh clothes. Never in my life have I experienced cold water hitting my skin never feel so blissful and rejuvenating. After I'm done, I somewhat felt refreshed- but my body was still undeniably sore. From my feet to my shoulders I felt undeniably sore.

Knowing I'm gonna be walking like a snail's pace, I went on ahead to the van, taking my sweet time on the driveway incline and waited in the van when I got there. What came next, was gastronomic bliss to fill our senses...

Waiting For The Group. Our guides and fellow hikers chatting with the manager of the resort here.

Waiting For The Food. Ram catches a glimpse of me sneaking a shot.

More Selfies! Others were busy in their own devices, but Ram and Jasper caught on and smiled for the camera.

I lost count how many shots I took. I usually just burst and forget. After this the food comes next...

Some parting words from our guide... If it doesn't show here, you can see it on Instagram.

This is the name of the place where we had lunch. Yes, it was legitimately delicious! The serving was decently generous, too. If I ever I wander around these parts I'd definitely dine here again.


This adventure, overall was quite rewarding- notwithstanding it being utterly exhausting, daunting, intimidating, excruciating, and to a certain point- somewhat humiliating. 

But then again, wise words from our guides - 

"Nobody cares how long it took you, or what you had to do along the way when you climbed a mountain- what's important is, you climbed it." 

It is of course, a given that you did it with your own power.

The pictures here are just a fraction of what I actually took. For the rest of the images, they can be found here for everyone to see.

Also, here's the album link:

The Hike To Taal Volcano

For anyone interested in taking a hike, I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone fit enough to walk unassisted for an hour or two. For more information about hiking in general and Trail Adventours, check out their website or their Facebook page. 

I earn nothing from this, I'm making this recommendation out of personal experience. For the time being, between my day job and my hobby, I'm toughening myself up to have another go at it- that place beyond the comfort zone has its charm - and I'm definitely coming back soon. It will be brutal, I imagine, but what doesn't kill me makes me post a blog entry about.

Also, follow me Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram. Yes, I'm kind of all over the place. Don't hesitate to share your thoughts on the comments as well. Until then, I'm out to get lost and wander.

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